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China's Yangtze River runs red

September 10, 2012

Residents of Chongqing, a southwestern city in China, were the first to notice something a bit different about the Yangtze River, the longest in the country. According to MSNBC, the river started to turn bright red, and officials are not sure why.

Even though the bright-red hue was concentrated around Chongqing, which is known for its large industrial center, the color was also spotted during different parts of the river. The reason behind the bright color is unknown, but it is expected to be because of industrial pollution and silt, which came about as a result of the recent upstream floods.

"When water turns red, the thing a lot of people think of first is red tide," Emily Stanley, a professor of limnology or the study of inland waters,  told Life's Little Mysteries. "But the algae that causes red tide is a marine group and not a freshwater group, so it's highly, highly unlikely that this is a red-tide-related phenomenon."

Even though Stanley believes the excess of silt due to the upstream floods may have something to do with it, she also thinks red clay is the more likely cause, the publication reports.

"China is well known for having areas with a lot of steep hill sides and a lot of land use practices that promote soil erosion and soil going into rivers," Stanley told the news outlet. "You can get red-colored clays that wouldn't be a whole lot different from having a big dose of dye go in there. But if that's the cause I'd imagine there would have had to be a huge storm or a huge amount of clay go into the system."

According to ABC News, residents in the area were stunned by the color and many started to collect it in bottles to save it. Those who use the water for business such as fisherman did not stop what they were doing, they simply kept going on with what they were doing.

Since there is no specific cause known at this time, officials are still investigating, the media outlet reports.

Those who want to talk about the rare color of the river can make calls to China using international calling cards to save some money. 

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